commentary by Grace Liao, 2006
| Some women refer to each other as “bitches” or
as “hos” (whores). And even though most women hate
being called these names, we hear the words being used everyday
on MTV. The music is still popular, even though those words are
used. It’s good news for rappers, rockers, and chauvinists
who apply these labels to all women.
Some rappers say they’re just being honest. They say nice
women—those who are neither sluts nor skeezers (women who
use men for money)—should take no offense to names that
don’t apply to them. They’re just dissing the women
who deserve it.
So that means they would make allowances for a white politician
who was revealed to routinely call black folks “niggers,” so
long as he explained. “I use that term in reference to
black people who kill others, you know, criminals. The rest of
you—take no offense.”
The worst thing about the B-word, and the N-word, and every denigrating
term, is what it assumes. It assumes that everybody—all
women, all black men, all members of the group—are alike.
The person who disses all women because of the actions of some
is as unenlightened as the racist who denies all black people’s
humanity because some blacks act inhumanely.
In 1920, the Senate and House of Representatives agreed on the
19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the
right to vote. This was a big step towards equality among men
and women. Yet people still find ways to degrade women by labeling
them as “bitches.” Isn’t this a step backward,
away from equality? Is anybody doing anything to prevent it?
Kevin P., a freshman marine biology major at HPU, said,“The
term is demeaning to all women,” and it “will desensitize
Some women disagree. Linda Rico, a sophomore majoring in visual
communication said, “No, I think we’re just trying
to take control of the situation.” She explained that she
believes the more such words are used, the less power they hold.
She has a point. If women embrace the word, by using it among
themselves, as Black Americans use the N-word among themselves,
they may be able make it their own so that no one can hurt them
But that doesn’t address the desensitizing of young people. “Rap
music media is mainstream,” said Sheika-Ann Ambatah, a
junior in entrepreneurial studies. She believes that “more
and more people are being exposed to this [anti-feminine] mindset.”
Ambatah is ashamed that some of her male friends use the B-word
to refer to their girlfriends.
Maybe if people continue using this word it will become a part
of society’s language and everyone will forget the true
meaning of the word,” said Angie Wong, a freshman liberal
arts major. Still, she continued, “I feel these women who
allow people to call them this way are allowing other people
to treat them in whatever way the other person wants… These
women have no pride.”
It devalues the person,” said Rev. Gregory Johnson, retired
assistant professor of religious studies at HPU. It causes “loss
of respect, and [makes it] easier to engage in acts of abuse
and violence, if she’s a ‘bitch,’ rather than
a human being,” he explained.
Hip-hop teaches people not to respect women, particularly African-American
women,” said Jacqueline Langley, program chair for multimedia
at HPU. “Some women want men so badly, they’ll do
whatever it takes,” she added.
Kids who listen to offensive rap music with this language will
think it is OK to degrade women and look at them as objects or
pieces of meat,” said Dustin Getty, a freshman marine biology
A popular femnist magazine is devoted to incisive commentary
on our media-driven world. It features critiques of TV, movies,
magazines, advertising, and more—plus interviews with and
profiles of cool, smart women in all areas of pop culture.
And it includes articles by feminists who try to teach women
to be more aware of the words being used against women.
Its subtitle is Feminist Response to Pop Culture; unfortunately,
it’s maintitle is Bitch so it promulgates the very mindset
it is trying change.
Donna Britt, a columnist for The Washington Post, wrote in 1993
that “bitch” was “A one-word assault on women.” She
pointed out the irony that “almost every name-calling rap
or rock video is decorated with the bodies of hip-grinding young
She also pointed out the lack of labels for men. Men who play
around are called players, but when women play around, they’re
labeled as “sluts,” “bitches,” and/or “hos.”
American freedom of speech makes it possible for these words
to be used, but their use makes it incumbent on everyone who
finds such words degrading, to answer with speech of their own
objecting to the degradation. Unfortunately, degradation is often
The messages many are selling are to—and about—blacks,” said
Brittany Yap, a recent HPU graduate in journalism. What they
are saying is: “You don’t deserve to live. Your women
are sluts and animals. You kill without remorse and copulate
without love or responsibility.
Sure that’s all a lie. But slap a beat on it, apply a coat
of glamour, and someone, somewhere will dance to it.”